Hey, Good Looking: Cosmetic Surgery in Pakistan
“Money can’t buy you happiness but it can pay for the plastic surgery”
— Joan Rivers
Let’s face it — we all have certain body parts we don’t like. Whether bestowed upon us at birth or acquired through years of stressing, eating, drinking or smoking — or just plain ageing — there will always be something we wish we could tweak or toggle (or completely remove). In no way is plastic surgery a new concept in this age of constructible beauty, but there is something to be said of the number of people getting it done these days — and openly at that. And no, not just in places such as North America or China, but right here, in the Land of the Pure.
A quick Google search will reveal the number of clinics across Pakistan promising you that perfect nose/chin/stomach. And there are endless takers. “And why not,” say those who have imbibed from this fountain of youth. “People spend so much money on their shoes, clothes and accessories, why shouldn’t they spend on their most obvious asset which is their face?” asks Rizwan Beyg, an A-list designer who admits to his own refreshing facelift.
And gone are the days when a simple makeover comprising salon-created hair and make-up and new clothes courtesy of the good old darzi were enough to make people feel beautiful and confident. Even the whispered-about facelift is passÃ©. New-age cosmetic procedures are all the rage now, and can range from things as complicated as liposuctions, stomach banding and breast implants to as minor as botox and facial thermÃ ges — whatever the eye of the recipient deems necessary to make herself or himself look and feel better. Even hair transplant clinics are as common and accessible as your neighbourhood salon. With encouraging nods from famous personalities such as TV actor Faisal Rehman and the flagrant Sharif brothers, everybody who’s anybody is flocking to get their locks multiplied with the help of extensions, sew-ins, transplants, and hair grafts. As a result of our increasing image consciousness, thanks to globalisation and the inescapable media which promotes nothing but skin-deep beauty, image satisfaction is hard to come by any more.
Maheen Khan, another A-list designer and socialite who ardently supports and indulges in cosmetic surgery to look and feel better, thinks of it as a “necessity” in an ageing person’s life. “People think cosmetic surgery is flippant, but it’s really not. I think it’s a confidence-builder for those who want it,” she says. After recently speaking out on a television show about her own experience with such procedures, Maheen dicloses she receives several phone calls a week from women all across Pakistan, even remote areas of Larkana and Sargodha, to seek her guidance on the matter. “So many people call me up and tell me their husbands don’t like this or that or they feel ugly and want to change something,” says Maheen.
Evidently, cosmetic treatments and this need to enhance your God-given features are no longer an idea limited to just the upper classes. Middle class men and women are just as eager to avail facelifts and hair transplants. Rose Beauty Parlour, initially established in Gulshan and now with branches in North Nazimabad and Zamzama, is one such beauty centre that offers affordable facelifts to the masses. With imported machinery from Paris, you can attain a customised facelift for just Rs 3,500. “A lot of women come for our treatments and from all parts of town, as there is a lot of awareness to look good nowadays. They see very good results with the facial treatments, and keep coming back for more,” says an employee of the Gulshan branch.
Top beautician and image consultant Nabila, is also an ardent supporter of cosmetic surgery. “I believe in fixing what needs to be fixed — changing what needs to be changed,” she stipulates. “If you look good, you feel good. And if you feel good, you perform better.” About to launch a new TV show called Nabila Changes, she plans to go further than the typical hair and style makeover show to something that fuses science with fashion and involves a little nip/tuck with the help of some of the best professionals in the field. “The show will feature a mix of celebrities as well as ordinary people to show that good style and good looks are attainable by everyone with the right help,” she says. Considering that this show has been in the pipeline for nearly 12 years, it makes one wonder why it is finally being launched now. “Our society is very open-minded now,” she explains. “I’ve been doing this for so many years, but I see a big change and acceptance in recent years. There were a few bad cases of plastic surgery before, which is why people really feared it, but now people are more comfortable with it seeing how common it has become and its excellent success rate.”
And although Nabila is a firm supporter of tweaking to one’s taste, she also cautions people to use cosmetic surgery with discretion. “There is a lot of pressure in our society to look good as we live in a very image-conscious world. But the key is knowing when to stop. Turning back a few years is fine, but beyond that, it starts becoming a problem — beauty and ugliness are really just a millimetre apart,” she says. As for botox, she stresses its simplicity and necessity: “Botox is like getting your roots done. It’s a twice-a-year procedure and if you don’t do it, you’re stupid. But don’t go to an uncertified beauty parlour for it — it requires technique.”
Well-known plastic surgeon in Karachi, Dr Tahir Shafi has been practicing for nearly 16 years now. Of all the various cosmetic surgeries he performs, he divulges that the most common ones are tummy-tucks, liposuctions, nose jobs and facelifts — performing roughly five or six such surgeries in a week. “People used to go abroad for such procedures previously, but Pakistan has several excellent surgeons now who use state-of-the-art equipment to perform high-quality surgeries. Pakistan’s emerging middle class has also become highly beauty conscious and can find relatively affordable doctors locally,” says Dr Shafi. When asked his opinion on why cosmetic procedures are increasingly on the up in Pakistan, he says, “It really comes down to the fact that we want to look good. Abroad, people are a little more forgiving of one’s imperfections — but here, mothers-in-law and materialistic friends don’t like us to be imperfect.”
However, Dr Shafi is quick to point out that as a doctor, he must use his professional judgment to accept or reject a patient. “In the same way that patients get to choose their doctors, us doctors also need to be selective with our patients. Some people are just unhappy and cosmetic surgery becomes a prop for them and they tend to overdo it. I don’t just blame them however, I blame their doctors too. Doctors must avoid ‘inappropriate’ patients — those that are doing surgeries to save their marriage or for a particular job prospect etc. There are a fair number of those cases.” He also cautions that cosmetic surgery is not without its complications and patients should be careful in avoiding quack doctors with no certifications.
As far as social acceptability of surgically-enhanced features go, it is definitely better embraced, but still a hush-hush fact that people would rather not admit to. “Everybody gets it done, but nobody likes to talk about it,” laughs Rizwan Beyg. “I honestly believe that 90% of those who can afford it in Pakistan, have gotten it done.” And for those thinking that plastic surgery is restricted to only beauty-conscious women, that is certainly not the case. “I think 40% of men in Pakistan also get it done, but they have an advantage in that no one questions it. People never even think that a man would get cosmetic surgery done. However, let me tell you, it’s very common,” he says.
Delving a little deeper into the world of cosmetic surgery, one finds that it is not just limited to improving your most noticed features, but is also available to enhance and tweak some rather private body parts. But that, is a whole another story…